Chapter 5: Answers
Inside a hotel room was a woman with green hair, white skin and brown eyes wearing a short green dress with a brown leather jacket and thigh-high black boots. She sat in a chair watching, just watching. Although the action happening before her was something she could stop, even if it could be considered sick or evil, the woman known as Reika Rikudou continued to watch a little girl kill the people in that room.
She had no idea why those people wouldn't wake up, but it was better she didn't have to hear them scream or beg for mercy. She had her doubts when entering the first room, but at the third one she began to stop caring. They were now at the tenth room of the night and she merely looked on at the bloody scene before her. The girl finished her job and walked back to her, the moonlight passing onto her from through the window. She had short white hair and silver eyes with two scars on her face, one over her left eye and the other on her right cheek, and was dressed in black attire which could hardly be considered conservative.
When Reika saw the little girl was covered in blood, she sighed and led her to the bathroom so she could clean her. After all, the owners of that room wouldn't need it anymore.
"Really, Jack, you always make such a mess," she said as she helped her take off her clothes and enter the bathtub for a shower.
"Sorry," Jack limited herself to saying.
"Alright, don't worry about it. Once you are clean, let's go back home."
Jack just smiled, focusing so much on the woman taking care of her, even though it wasn't necessary, that she didn't notice a man observing them from outside the room.
The man floating in the sky had long emerald hair and red eyes with tanned skin. He wore a blue coat with a black shirt, pants and boots. The man continued to look for a couple more seconds before landing on the roof of a nearby building.
"Sometimes I think you are going soft, Situla."
The man turned to see a crimson-clad knight standing behind him.
"Antares," he said with a smile. "I could say the same. I would have sworn you'd have killed a member or two of your Faction by now."
The crimson knight laughed.
"I won't deny I almost did, but Hero-san managed to save them."
"We haven't seen him in a long time."
"But tell me Situla, why are you helping that pair so much?" he asked with genuine curiosity.
"Don't get me wrong, Antares. I'm just giving them a fair chance. That woman can't provide her servant with mana, so I simply guided them in the right direction so their war won't end so fast."
"Is that so?" Antares didn't seem convinced. "Why did you provide her with another place to stay, separate from her faction?"
Situla needed to choose his words carefully since he knew that under Antares' carefree expression was a monster thirsting for blood. No wonder he and the other Counter Guardians believed him to be the strongest of them all.
"I thought it would be the best decision, as many inside her faction would try to take advantage of the fact that she isn't a real magus and steal her Servant. As I said, I am only giving them a chance."
He didn't lie but he didn't tell the truth either, as he had taken some interest in that particular pair. It was a pair that was completely different from the others. The compatibility between them was extraordinary and he wanted to see how much that girl and her Master could accomplish in the War.
Antares looked at him, any trace of his smile long gone, trying to see a lie, but he couldn't find anything. He sighed, and then patted Situla on the shoulder.
"Alright, I will trust you with this. See you later, old friend," Antares said, disappearing in a torrent of flames.
Situla turned back to the building and saw the pair leaving through the front door.
"I wish you two the best of luck… Assassin of the Black Faction." He then vanished.
Archer and Rider arrived at the house provided by Antares. Archer had managed to stop Shirou from going out until they at least knew where they were. He didn't do it for the sake of that idiot, but because if he left him to do as he pleased, he would get them all killed with his stupid need to save everyone.
He and Rider were the fastest, so they could cover more parts of the city in less time.
"Rider, don't tell anyone about her."
"Knowing that idiot, he would try to talk to her and probably end up dead. Also, if it comes to the point where we have to take her down, it would make things hard."
Rider thought about it for a moment before agreeing with the man clad in red.
The seven were now seated in front of Zelretch, none of them really happy since they had almost died in last hour. He had agreed to answer their questions, which were many, but they needed to ask the important ones. They didn't ask his name—he told them the moment he had brought them to that room.
"Alright, first question old man, where are we?" Leo asked.
"Have you ever heard of the Bermuda Triangle?"
"You're kidding, right?" Edward said while standing up. "There's a city in here. This can't possibly be the place in those legends."
"Are you sure?"
"He's made a fair point, Zelretch. How could people who had been lost create such a city?" Kousuke asked.
Zelretch just lowered his head. All looked at him with confusion, and then Kage realized what the old magus was trying to say.
"It can't be," he said, standing as well.
The second to notice was Kirsche.
"This is most unexpected from you, Zelretch." she said while looking at him with amusement.
Then the others began to understand, one by one, the truth about the place where they were.
"This place isn't a city, it's an arena," Breno said, looking down at the floor, disgusted by the idea.
"Gaia used the people who disappeared around here to build this city?" Atosaki asked with horror.
"No I don't think so, the world doesn't have such power otherwise Alaya wouldn't exist and Humanity would have been wiped out long." Kirsche said also standing up. "To control such a large number of people she would need something else, a magus." She pointed at Zelretch.
In that moment, before anyone could stop him, Edward ran at Zelretch. His left arm turned into his claw form, but it differed this time, the head of a silver wolf now protruded from his shoulder. He tried to punch Zelretch but was blocked by an unseen barrier.
"Edward-san!" Atosaki yelled in concern.
"Calm down, boy. I won't deny I deserve it, but I'm not so old to be beaten by a mere kid."
"You bastard!" Flames began to clash against the barrier. "Using innocent people for this! Just what do you want us to save?!"
Eventually the barrier repelled him and before he could run at him again he was stopped by silver wires tied around his body and the hands of both Leo and Kousuke.
"Don't be stupid Hellhound. He's a sorcerer. You wouldn't stand a chance." Kirsche said flatly.
"I know what you feel, trust me, but we need more answers," Kousuke said, holding his katana tightly.
"You beat me in trying to punch that old man," Leo said with a smile, but his free hand was clenched in a fist.
Edward calmed down and his arm turned back to normal. The others let him go.
"Zelretch, explain the meaning of this." The anger in his voice hadn't disappeared.
The old magus looked at him with eyes full of regret.
"She needed a stage so the destruction wouldn't cause her any more damage. It's true I used the people who disappeared and made them construct this city. The Counter Guardians gave me the materials. I must say, not all of them were innocents. Some were modern pirates, others were people running away from their crimes, but I won't deny a great amount of innocent people were used."
"Don't beat around the bush, tell us why!" Kage said as he began to lose his patience.
"Have you heard the phrase 'sacrifice a few for the good of many'?"
The moment he said those words, the noblewoman among them gave a chilling laugh.
Kischee nodded, and looked at her fellow Masters. "The logic is inhuman and brutal, but it's a valid argument."
Everyone looked at her with evident betrayal.
"It was necessary," the old magus said, looking at them before continuing. "That's why I reunited all of you; I need you to win and to protect the people in here."
"You're just making us clean up after your mess!" Breno exclaimed.
"I know, but there is no other way. I need you all to wish for the world to forget the Grail."
"I don't understand how that would even work," Kousuke intervened. "Before the Grail War, there had been a great number of Holy Grails in the world. Even before that, the Grail was part of the legend of King Arthur."
"All of that will disappear."
All present were shocked.
"With your wish, the stories of this world will change. The very myth of the Grail will disappear. The life of all the people in this War would change, the three families would never create the ritual, other Grails won't exist and even the legend of King Arthur would be modified."
Archer and Rider found Rin with Sakura in the living room.
"Rin, Rider and I are back."
"Welcome back. How did it go?" she asked.
"Well, a couple of fights have already begun. We found a couple of streets destroyed."
In that moment Shirou came along with Saber, the wound to his shoulder already healed.
"So you are back, Archer," Saber said.
Archer noticed something strange.
"Rin, where are the others?"
Rin looked at him, not understanding the reason for his question.
"Ilya decided to go to sleep. Bazett went with Caster and Kuzuki to the basement for her to summon Assassin as a gate keeper, like in the last war."
The moment she said that, Archer got a bad feeling and headed toward the basement. It was a good thing this house was almost the same as Rin's.
He didn't get far. The three of them entered the room the very moment he was about to leave. The expression on Caster's face showed both confusion and rage. She had failed and she couldn't try another summoning.
"What happened, Caster?" asked a worried Rin.
"We weren't able to summon Assassin."
"What?" Rin was shocked along with the others, and Archer understood the reason behind that bad feeling.
"I don't understand why you all are so surprised. That just means the Assassin of this faction has been already summoned," said a voice nobody had expected to hear.
"Antares!" Shirou said while tracing Kanshou and Bakuya.
The crimson knight appeared with a smirk on his face and trying to suppress his laughter when he saw the boy trying to fight him.
"Kid, because of idiots like you, others will begin to believe I like killing people."
"It's not completely false either," Archer said while glaring at him.
"Come on Hero-San, if anyone likes to kill, it's Kaus."
"Supervisor, what do you mean Assassin was already summoned?" the cloaked Servant asked.
"I mean what I said; each faction needs seven Masters and Servants. So unlike in your War, you can't be a Master, Servant of the spell," said the crimson knight.
"Then who is it?" Shirou asked.
"Really? You haven't found out? I would assume you would know of all people." Antares pointed at Sakura.
"What?" Sakura didn't understand.
"Little girl, the Master of Assassin is someone you know very well, he said as he disappeared and reappeared in front of the purple haired girl before anyone could react.
Sakura felt a shiver go down her spine and understood who the seventh Master was.
"No… No… It can't be!"
"Stop with the theater, Antares!" Rin snapped. "Tell me who summoned Assassin. There was no one else in that room!"
The knight didn't say anything, just pointed to the door behind the group. They all turned and saw a decrepit-looking old man wearing a light green kimono with a black mantle over his shoulders.
All those present looked at him and felt something evil emanating from him, except for Sakura. Sakura felt something completely different. She felt a mix of fear and obedience.
"Who are you?" Shirou asked.
"Matou Zouken," Bazett said while glaring at the old man.
"I feel honored that you know about me, child of the Fraga."
"Everyone would know about a monster like you."
"There, there, normally I wouldn't mind a fight between all of you, but it would be a pain if my faction ended up being defeated first because of this," Antares said as he stood, raising his hands, trying to calm the situation.
"You think you can order me around, Servant of the World. You are just a weak excuse for a human who needed to submit to someone."
"What did you just say?" Antares glared at the old man.
"It's the truth. You're nothing but a dog at the service of Alaya. Even if the others consider you the strongest of the Counter Guardians, without the support of the world even I can…"
Zouken didn't manage to finish. The upper half of his body had separated from the rest. It fell slowly, seeing how the remnants became ashes. As all of it scattered, a crimson scorpion stinger appeared around Antares.
The moment his body touched the ground, all those present realized what had happened and before they could even say anything, the stinger moved toward a wall and thrust itself into it. No one understood the action until a second later a man wearing a black robe and a white skull mask appeared, yelling in pain as the stinger continued piercing his stomach.
"That's Assassin?!" Rin said, not believing the Servant who could hide his presence better than anyone had been found without a problem.
Zouken looked at where his body had been ripped off. It wasn't burned or cut, only as if the stinger had disintegrated the part of his body between the upper and lower ones. He stopped thinking when he heard a crash on the other side of the room. Antares had thrown Assassin after deciding it was enough. He slowly walked to the old man and knelt so they could talk face to face.
"Don't think of me as a regular Counter Guardian, snake, I don't have anything to envy of those Heroic Spirits." He stood and began to walk away, but then he suddenly stopped and turned back. "Also, you are lucky I can't kill participants or else you would be dead. Leave this house if you want to live. You make me sick."
Antares disappeared in a whirlwind of fire. Everyone understood why he was considered the strongest, and Archer had said it would be foolish to oppose him. It wasn't power alone, the aura and the pressure that knight gave had been so great that none of them could even move, the Servants included. Only one thought was on their minds.
"That guy is a monster."
Between the seven Masters and Zelretch, no one dared to say a word. No one had expected that the old man wanted them to rewrite history.
"I still don't understand why you selected us. In the end, we'll end up killing each other since there is only one winner in this war," Breno said as he sat again.
"No, your case is different."
"How so?" the young man with the black coat asked.
"You weren't supposed to exist as a faction, so the Grail recognized the seven of you as a whole winner. If the members of your group are the only ones remaining, then the war would be over."
"Still, you're basically asking us to kill thirty-five people. Not that I'm a saint, but I don't like killing because someone told me to," Leo said, returning to his seat.
"We can't kill them! We just need to beat the Servants!" Atosaki said, opposed to the idea of killing human Masters.
"To focus only on the Servants is too dangerous. Also, Masters could make another contract with a free Servant," Kirsche said in a cold voice.
"We could cut off their arms," Edward said, surprising everyone.
"Hey, do you understand what you just said?" Kousuke asked while grabbing his shoulder.
"I know, but at least we could take their Command Seals without killing them," he said back, looking at the others. "It's not the best choice, but it's an option. That way they don't have to die."
"I can't deny you have a point, but there are too many Masters to just target their Servants," Kousuke said while pulling his hand away and taking a seat.
Edward turned to Atosaki, who looked at him with eyes full of shock and sorrow at his words.
"Atosaki-san," he said.
She didn't answer him, only turned to the old man.
"Isn't there any other way?"
"No, I'm sorry. You either kill the other Masters or take their Command Seals," the old man said, head hung.
"I curse you, old man. You're forcing us into a war that isn't our own and to fight people we don't know to save your world," Edward said. "At the beginning I thought you had good intentions and that's why I was eager to help, but you are as evil as the World that created this war."
No one spoke. Zelretch didn't feel he had the right to.
"Still, I will fight, not for you but for this world, even if it isn't mine. I have a policy of aiding those who seek my help. You approve of this, Saber, don't you?"
The red swordswoman appeared at his side with a smile.
"I will follow you no matter what, my Praetor."
Her words made him smile. He then turned to the other six.
"What about you guys?"
He didn't ask this question because they actually had a choice. They were already participants in the War and none them seemed to have the means to go back to their own worlds. But he wanted to make it look like it was their decision and that the reason they would fight wasn't just because they had been tricked by Zelretch.
"I can't let people die, Edward-san," Atosaki said with a smile.
"I will fight because I think something like this War shouldn't exist," Kage said.
"My honor as a magus wouldn't let me run away," Breno said.
"It's a good cause, so I think I can help out," Leo said, smirking.
"Since it's against my principles to let innocents get hurt, I will fight," Kousuke said.
Zelretch turned to Kirsche who smiled coldly at him. "I want a World Gate in return. That's something even I cannot create, and only you are capable of building. That's my price for being your 'insurance'."
Zelretch sighed and nodded, and Edward cleared his throat.
"You've got your sixth faction, Zelretch, but let me make two things clear. We are doing this because we decided to, not because of you, and once this is over I will make you pay," he said as his eyes turned bright red.
To their surprise, the old magus began to laugh a laugh that they were sure could be heard throughout the house.
"I didn't expect less from all of you, and Hellhound, I guess I can let you punch me if I you manage to win."
He stood up.
"Then let me introduce to your supervisor."
"Supervisor? You mean the Counter Guardian you mentioned when you brought me here?" Leo asked.
"Yes and no. You see, I managed to make arrangements so that instead of a Counter Guardian, you would have someone else as a supervisor to allow more freedom."
Everyone present nodded, even as a door in the back opened to let in a woman wearing a long-sleeved, light blue sweater and a white skirt.
"Your sense of drama is tacky, old man," she commented dryly, and Zelretch could only sigh while Kirsche cackled with delight.
Two of the Masters couldn't believe it. Edward knew her since he had met another version of her, and even though she didn't have simply a different hair and eye colouring, but an entirely different appearance, he knew who she was instantly.
"Sakura…?" he asked, and the woman raised a blue eyebrow at him.
"I wasn't aware that we've met," she mused. "Therefore, it would be logical to assume that you've met one of my alternate universe counterparts. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Sakura of Colchis, Priestess of Hecate, and the Tenth Dead Apostle Ancestor."
Kirsche nearly fell out of her chair. "You're a vampire…?"
"No…" Sakura said while walking over to a free chair and sitting down. "…I'm not a vampire. Princess Altrouge just insisted I take over the role after I killed Nrvnsqr Chaos. She was the one who gave me the title 'The Bearer of the Word'. How fitting, considering my abilities." Sakura paused and chuckled at the irony. "Anyway enough about that…" she said while looking carefully at the gathered Masters. "…Let's talk about the upcoming contest, shall we?"